Hardwood Mat Integrity
In the world of hardwood mats, there are run of the mill hardwood mats, and then there are real-deal, true-blue hardwood mats. The quality differences that can occur between different hardwood mats can be staggering. There are a lot of factors that can influence this kind of quality and there are important things to look at and consider at every junction in the construction process. The quality and grade of timber used in the mat construction process is one such factor. Another critical component that affects the quality of hardwood mat is the actual quality and integrity of the manufacturing process itself. This process has a lot of different components and includes the harvesting of the hardwood, the milling of the wood into usable timber, the treatment of the timber, and the assembly of the timber into the final product. We are going to take some time to spotlight at recap of few of these critical factors and dig a little more in depth into the process as a whole to see what we can distill and gather about hardwood mat manufacturers and the final product itself.
It may not be something you’ve really stopped to consider in the past, but there are quite a few different grades of lumber on the market. That means, by practical extension, that there are a lot of different grades of hardwood mats, crane mats, and bridge mats out there on the market. The difference between one grade of timber and another can result in a pretty significant difference in the final product each respective grade of timber produces. There are a lot of variables that can contribute to the different grades of lumber, and at those differences we now will glance. The climate the tree was grown in can make a substantial difference in the final quality of the tree and in the strength of the timber produced by that tree. The age of a tree also can drastically change the quality of the lumber it produces. An exceptionally old tree could have a rotting core, where as a young tree could have a softer wood. All of these differences are considered when the lumber for a hardwood mat or crane mat is being selected. Because so much can ride on the quality of a hardwood mat, sometimes it just makes sense to use only the best.
Spinning The Globe: Hardwood Mats
It has been said that variety is the spice of life. Now, if that is true, then it might do us some good to add a little variety to the situation we’ve got going on here. This, of course, assumes that you do, in fact, like well-spiced food. If not, then the next few minutes might not be your favorite. We’re going to introduce a little spice with a game. We’re going to spin a globe (you’ll have to bear with us and spin an imaginary globe in your mind as we are fresh out of physical globes for everyone reading this). Once we’ve spun this imaginary globe, we are going to put our finger down anywhere on the globe to stop it from spinning. Wherever your finger lands is going to get some extra special attention, perhaps introducing just a little spice to your hardwood mat learning experience. So, get those globes a’spinnin! Ok, now place that index finger and place it hard! You don’t want a sloppy placement. Now check out what you’ve got. Is it Antarctica? It is? Great! Let’s start with Antarctica. You might be wondering what Antarctica and hardwood mats could possibly have to do with one another. Well, we’re about to tell you. If you’ve ever tried to trek across vast expanses of snow, you are probably familiar with the fact that snow is not always the most sturdy or reliable surface to drive, walk or trek across. As it turns out, hardwood mats are actually pretty good for providing a reliable surface from which to operate. Now, obviously down in Antarctica, you’re probably going to be getting some pretty frequent weather and snow, so leaving a mat in one place is a sure fire recipe for losing that mat. They are, however, indispensible when it comes to working with heavy machinery in snow-covered lands. By providing a base that is not prone to crushing, sinking, slipping and sliding, you create for yourself and your crew a much more reliable and safe platform to work from. Construction projects are a prime example of such a use of hardwood mats. A crane swinging around tons of steel in the frozen nether regions of our planet is a surefire recipe for disaster if it is operating on an unstable base. Stabilize that unstable base with hardwood mats or crane mats, and bingo, you’ve got yourself an entirely different situation.
Pipeline Planning and Hardwood Mats
There is a lot of talk out there right now about energy efficiency. We’ve looked at the topic before, but there is definitely a trend toward improving the efficiency with which construction projects are carried out. The reason for this is extremely simple and logical and goes without saying… although we’re going to say it because around here there are no stupid questions or stupid answers. The bottom line is that the bottom line is everything in a lot of construction projects. Staying on budget and on schedule is of the utmost importance when clients and end users are counting on the project being carried out in the right way. In the pipeline construction industry, hardwood mats can greatly improve “efficiency” on a job site. So, what does efficiency mean in this setting? Well, the answer to that will take a little digging (although we could probably distill it into a small handful of words… if you’re a regular around here, you probably know that if we can say it with a few words, we are likely to say it with many). Efficiency can mean a lot of things, but in this sense we’re primarily speaking about energy efficiency (both mechanical energy fueled by petroleum, and human energy fueled by hearty meals and a good night’s sleep). It might sound silly, but this second form of energy is an often-overlooked aspect of efficiency to be considered. The amount of energy that must be exerted by the construction crew can mean the difference between a project that comes in under budget and on time and a project that turns belly up and requires additional resources (both financial and time based). These are the kind of projects you never want to be managing, because if you are, you’re probably getting some heat from somewhere up stream. There are a lot of ways to help improve pipeline construction efficiency. One such way is proper planning. Avoiding major obstacles and planning for potential problems can go a long way in any project. By removing the unexpected, construction crews and project managers can work more efficiently at the primary objective rather than exerting time and energy on peripheral problems. Another way of improving jobsite energy efficiency is with the incorporation of hardwood mats, crane mats, bridge mats, and temporary log roads. This is really a part of planning ahead; finding solutions to obstacles and issues presented by terrain and weather, and solving them with the almighty mat.
Efficiency in the Oil Industry
The oil business is a tough business when it comes to wear and tear on equipment and machinery. There are no easy roads when you’re cutting a trail through America’s heartland… and by heartland we don’t mean the rolling prairies of the Midwest. No, we’re talking the thick underbrush and swamps and forests and mountains that make up much of America. This nation is anything but homogenous in its terrain. In the course of only a couple hundred miles, there could be multiple climates that you’ll have to pass through. This is just one of the major issues in pipeline construction and one of the primary reasons hardwood mats and crane mats can be such a vital component on the average pipeline construction worksite. When ground stabilization is an issue, hardwood mats are the remedy. In all these varied landscapes, there are countless uses for hardwood mats. In prairie areas and lowlands throughout the country, hardwood mats can help stabilize wet and unstable ground. Bogs, swamps and marsh-like areas are known for their soggy footing. When you introduce a heavy piece of machinery into the mix, the results can be pretty bad. Even the most aggressive machine tracks and tires can be easily overcome and bogged down. Just image the tons and tons of steel and pistons and moving parts on an average machine. These, with all their power and ability to move earth and pipe, stand very little chance against the elements, especially mud. Mud is one of the primary culprits of slow construction… aside from mismanagement and poor planning. When there is mud in the picture (which there almost certainly will be if we’re talking about the lowlands and prairies of this country) the game changes substantially. There is only so much control that pipeline construction planners can have when it comes to planning routes. Sure, they will avoid major obstacles and difficult terrain to the best of their ability, but this is only possible to a small degree. With each additional twist and turn of a pipeline, the operation gets more difficult. As a general rule, a straight pipeline is a good pipeline. There are a lot of factors that also help dictate how and where a pipeline must run. Slope is a big factor, as the path of least gravitational resistance is important to follow to enable smooth operation and pipeline efficiency… because at the end of the day it is all about efficiency.
The Origins of Hardwood Mats
Since coming to the very clear and apparent revelation that all things pertain to hardwood mats, and that hardwood mats pertain to all things, we’ve been dedicated to leaving no subject unexplored and no point of interest unsearched. I guess we’re a bit like that overenthusiastic father who, on a cross country road trip, stops at every notable landmark, rest stop, state line, and tumbleweed along the way. There is something about curiosity killing the cat that is lost on us. In recent months we’ve been examining the hardwood forests responsible for much of our hardwood mat, lumber mat, timber mat, bridge mat, crane mat and rig mat production. We took a look at deciduous trees, an often-used hardwood variety of tree useful in hardwood mat manufacturing. We explored bottomland forests whose crop is responsible for most of our hardwood-based products here in the U.S. And now, in the name of progress and continued exploration, we are going to move our exploration expedition slightly north and continue to look at another common forest type responsible, in part, for the production of crane mats and other hardwood products. The northern hardwood forest is a type of forest ecosystem typically found in much of southeastern and south central Canada. These forests extend as far south as New York, New England and even along much of the Great Lakes and Minnesota. This particular forest is often considered to be a transitional forest as it rests between two predominant forest types to the north and to the south (in case you needed reminding, most of our ecosystem variation and climate variation is based on both latitude and altitude). The forests to the north of our northern hardwood forest are called Boreal forests, while the forests to the south are called oak-hickory forests. We’ll look at these two types a little closer later on, but for now, we’ll continue with the northern hardwood forest. Much of its vegetation consists of striped maple, sugar maple, American beech, yellow birch, hobblebush, and hemlock. These forests are known for their beauty during the fall as their leaves change into brilliant colors before falling off the trees. Because of the quality and strength of these trees, they were highly valued and logged heavily. Most of the northern hardwood forests in North America are not virgin forests, but rather have been replanted and regrown. So next time you see a hardwood mat, crane mat, rig mat or bridge mat, ponder, if you will, its origins and the forests type it came from… or don’t – either way, they’ll keep the ground below you sturdy and stable.
The Forest From the Trees: Hardwood Mats
There are a lot of things to know about hardwood mats and the ground stabilization industry, and to be honest; although we’ve covered a good portion of the industry here in our expeditions into the world of all things hardwood mat, we have only scratched the surface of what remains to be uncovered. You might be asking yourself how there could possibly that much to talk about in an industry as seemingly simple as matting and ground cover. It’s an understandable question when you look at the surface of things, but if you dig in just a little, you’ll soon find an endless trail that will lead you in and out of nearly every facet of life. Even the most simple of things can give way to the endless complexity that lies behind the curtain. With the philosophical perspective out of the way, let’s get to that endless trail. Recently we found ourselves deep in a hardwood forest, looking at the varieties of tree and forest types that contribute to the mats of all shapes and sizes. To be accurate, there are matting solutions out there that utilize other materials such as plastic. Obviously you aren’t going to be building a plastic mat out of the produce of a hardwood forest… and if you did, it would require some space age fancy footwork to pull off. Luckily, we’re not going to even touch that idea, so let’s get back to forests. The bottomland hardwood forest was the variety of forest we began to look at last week (there are many varieties of forest out there, so if you’ve got a hankering to learn more, dive right in, there is a lot to learn). The bottomland hardwood forest is a primarily deciduous hardwood forest. A deciduous tree is a tree that loses its leaves seasonally. The word deciduous means “falling off at maturity” and describes the process we commonly experience in autumn. If you hoped to gain an interesting little tidbit from our time here today, you’re in luck. The word deciduous actually has a lesser known connotation outside of the world of trees and hardwood mats and vegetation. The word can also refer to the biological equivalent; such as deer antlers and baby teeth. These “fall off” so to speak once their purpose has been served or there is need for new or different teeth or antlers. So keep an eye out for those deer antlers, baby teeth and deciduous tree leaves in your pursuit of hardwood mat knowledge, and we’ll see you next week.
Forestry and Hardwood Mats
In the hardwood mat industry, you run into a lot of people who work in the oil business. From oilrigs to pipelines, the oil industry is as close to a sister industry to the hardwood mat and ground stabilization industry as you can get. The two industries have formed a symbiotic and important relationship, without which, neither industry would flourish quite as brilliantly. Another industry where you get a good bit of overlap is the forestry industry. As hardwood mat builders, we are intimately connected to the productivity of the forest. In honor of this interconnected relationship, we are going to take a little detour from our exposition and decidedly overdrawn inspection and dissection of the pipeline industry and look instead at some topics that might be of interest to the forester among us. To start, we are going to look at some of the varieties of hardwood forests and some of the progressions that those forests go though on their way to becoming productive and valuable forests. It should be noted here that the value of a forest is not merely found in its monetary worth. Who doesn’t love a verdant spring walk through a lush and budding hardwood glade. We all do, hands down. Today however, we are going to focus a little more heavily on the production side of forestry, although we will be learning a few things that are valuable to woods walker and wood chopper alike. One of the more common hardwood forest types (one employed often in the production of crane mats, laminated mats, bridge mats, and board roads) is the bottomland hardwood forest. This is a variety of forest, deciduous hardwood forest to be exact, that lies in the lowland floodplains commonly found along larger rivers and lakes. These floodplains will flood from time to time allowing the build up of what are known as alluvial soils. These soil types are important for the growth of gum, oak, and bald cypress trees (staple hardwood trees). These trees benefit from occasional flooding, but cannot withstand continued submergence. These forests are common in the southeast and gulf coast states like Mississippi and Louisiana. There are an estimated 4,000,000 acres of this specific variety of forest in the region (this number used to be nearly 24,000,000 acres before farming and foresting became widespread and greatly reduced the overall acreage). This is the stuff hardwood mats are made of, so stay tuned as we continue our nice little walk through the woods.
Hardwood Mats and High Seas
If you’ve ever been on an ocean liner in the middle of a strong nor’easter, or if you’re in a part of the globe where a nor’easter doesn’t really mean much, then if you’ve ever been in heavy seas on an ocean liner, you know that things can get a little rowdy. Even a large ship can turn into a wild ride should the seas lift and the weather turn foul. In these cases, there is good reason to make certain that all equipment (especially heavy equipment and heavy machinery) is fastened and stowed safely. Here comes that inquisitive, unavoidable question that always gets asked in these parts, “what does all this have to do with hardwood mats, crane mats, bridge mats, rig mats, and laminated mats?” Well, the answer might surprise you; not in the “what a wonderful gift!” sense, or the “that milk is sour!” sense, but rather in the, “hmm, I haven’t thought of it that way in a while” sense. The idea doesn’t get as much attention around here because we’re usually unnaturally preoccupied with pipeline construction and the use of hardwood mats in the construction of petroleum pipeline. But, today we’re going to do it justice. Hardwood mats are actually quite useful in the situation we described earlier – the rocking and rolling of a freighter riding through rugged seas. To protect heavy equipment and to guard the actual deck of the ship itself, hardwood mats can provide a great deal of protection. By lining the deck with laminated mats or other varieties of hardwood mats, the surface of the deck of the ship can be protected from gouges and dents that otherwise could mar a ship and require costly repairs. Imagine a machine that weighs several tons, made of steel, perched on the deck of an ocean going vessel. Things are going just dandy until suddenly the winds begin to shift and the seas begin to sway. In an instant that large piece of machinery is no longer sitting like a good little machine, but rather is rocking and swaying with the boat. Even if it is firmly secured, there will be slight shifting that will inevitably occur when the seas turn. Even this minute shifting can seriously mar the deck of the ocean liner. This is much less likely to occur if a sturdy yet less abrasive object such as a hardwood mat, acted as a buffer between the heavy machinery and the vessel itself. So there’s a little something different to think about throughout your week. Enjoy.
Mud and Mats
What happens when forces of nature and the might of man collide? Well, often it doesn’t go so well for us humans. We usually spend a lot of time cleaning up after nature unleashes its fury. Even when the results aren’t disastrous, bad weather can really slow us down. This, in essence, is the impetus behind hardwood mats, timber mats, crane mats, and bridge mats. If weather were ideal and soil were endlessly stable, we would probably never have needed hardwood mats, we wouldn’t be here talking to you about them, and you wouldn’t be here reading about them. The reality is that bad weather has driven us to create the thing we love so dearly around here. So how does a hardwood mat help in times of weather induced difficulty? Well, the beauty in a hardwood mat really is found in its ability to disperse weight over a larger surface area than otherwise would be had if a wheel or tread or machine track were crossing over that same area. It is the principal of displacement, the same principal at work in barges and boats of all sizes. Essentially, a hardwood mat is helping to float heavy machinery over muddy, unstable soil. This is an incredibly simple idea, but one that is critical to understand and employ on the jobsite. In today’s ultra-efficient world, downtime can be a major setback. To avoid such issues and to stay in step with the weather, no matter what it brings, hardwood mats make up an essential part of the picture. In muddy conditions where otherwise equipment and heavy machinery would be rendered immobile, hardwood mats can enable continued work. To help illustrate the idea, if you’ve ever run through a muddy field and had your shoe sucked right off of your foot by the gulping mud, you know how nasty mud can get. Now imagine that instead of running across that field, you ran across a floor of boards, a board road so to speak. In this scenario, chances are you won’t loose your shoe unless you’re leaving your laces untied, and that just isn’t good for anybody. Hopefully that illustration didn’t only remind you of a difficult time in your past when you lost a shoe or other article of clothing to a bog, swamp, or mud hole. Hopefully it encouraged you that there is in fact hope, and that hardwood mats, crane mats, bridge mats, and rig mats might be the answer to all your mud-birthed problems.
Timber Mats and Construction
We think, therefore we are… right? Well, that might be the case, but we’re not going to dig too far down that rabbit hole because frankly, we’ve got some hardwood mats to talk about. We’re not talking about just any hardwood here, we’re talking about tried and true, true blue, real deal timber mats. What is a timber mat? If you ask your neighbor, chances are he’s probably not going to have an answer for you. He might give it his best shot and tell you something about Paul Bunyan and the plight of blue oxen, but chances he won’t be hitting a bulls eye (no pun intended… you know blue ox, bull… I guess if it has to be explained, then it probably wasn’t worth calling out in the first place, but so it goes I suppose). So, then, what exactly is a timber mat? Well, that is a great question, and to answer it, I am going to tell you a little story. Once upon a time there was a construction worker. He was hard at work building oil pipeline that spanned great distances. This worker was a very hard worker. He worked so hard, in fact, that even the boiling heat and the freezing cold couldn’t slow him down. One day he was working away when some dark clouds rolled in. “No problem,” he thought. “I can work in the heat, and I can work in the cold. What are a couple of clouds going to do?” And with that he continued about his work. Building, and constructing, and building some more. Well, after a little time had passed, the clouds rolled right over top of him, and with a clap of thunder, the sky began to pour down rain. Our hard working friend didn’t even flinch. He just kept on working. He kept working, that is, until he couldn’t work any longer because his truck, which he used to carry supplies, got stuck in the mud. “Oh darn it!” he yelled, as he got out to assess the situation. He knew he had to keep working, so being stuck just wouldn’t do. Now this particular worker was especially clever, and having been faced with the present predicament, he decided to act fast. What did he do? He cut timber from the nearby woods and invented the timber mat! Now although this probably wasn’t how the first timber mat was invented, it was a pretty darn good children’s story. So next time you or your kids or your dog can’t sleep, just tell them the story and rest easy knowing they are learning the real value of a hardwood mat. You can thank us later!